This section is from the book "The Principles And Practice Of Modern House-Construction", by G. Lister Sutcliffe. Also available from Amazon: How Your House Works: A Visual Guide to Understanding & Maintaining Your Home.
Comfort. - In no other country have the amenities of home-life been so well developed in respect of the plan of the dwelling as in the British Islands. This is partly due to the climate, and partly to the domestic habits of the prosperous classes. In other words, people are obliged to live indoors, and many can afford to make themselves very comfortable there. It is of course in the country, and in the residences of the more wealthy, that the organization of the interior of the house becomes thoroughly elal>oratcd; hut none the less in our middle-class dwellings innumerable examples may be found in which domestic convenience is almost unconsciously perfected, and the conditions of family enjoyment exquisitely fulfilled.
Section I. Plan By Robert Kerr
Architect. F.R.I B.A.
Emeritus Profesor Of The Arts Of Construction, King's Collage. London
Author Of "The English Gentelman's House". Etc.
Section I. - plan.
To make a thoroughly comfortable house, every apartment must be planned by itself, and for its own uses; and the designer will do well in all cases to take into account - in fact, to plot upon his paper plan - the disposition of the furniture. There are too many dining-rooms, for example, in which the place for the sideboard is by no means easily determined, and too many bedrooms in which there is no proper place for the bedstead; which is surely inexcusable.
That a family dwelling should be healthy, or primarily devoid of all elements of insalubrity, may go without saying; but, even in a matter apparently so simple, it does not follow that careful design can be dispensed with; indeed, the scientific question is not generally recognized as it ought to be. We are apt altogether to overlook the fact that we live in an ocean - that of the air, - the purity of whose chemical composition is life and joy to us, and its impurity disease and misery. Upon the bed of this ocean, also, we form patches of incrustation, large or small, which we call our towns, composed of multitudinous individual nests called our houses - elsewhere also scattered about singly, - in which we take up our abode and follow many of our occupations.
confining the air by unnatural restraints, compromising its purity in a handled ways of negative neglect and positive disorganization and defilement, and, indeed, too frequently so doing with a thoughtlessness almost childish in its innocent complacency. What with our own breathing or blood-cleansing, our skin waste, our fires and smoke, the dust from our upholstery and clothing, our drainage, sometimes our actual manufacture of pestilential vapours, all coupled with an exclusion of that supply of restless fresh air which is beneficently seeking entrance at every point, these dwellings of ours, even of the best class, only too readily become unwholesome; while in those of an inferior order, actual atmospheric poisoning is often the rule rather than the exception. The architect takes upon himself the responsibility of dealing scientifically, in the details of his plan, not only with "smells" and flagrant want of ventilation, but with a demand for brightness, airiness, proper aspect for sunshine, even prospect for cheerfulness - in short, all the environment, within and without, upon whose wholesomeness in one way or another healthy occupancy depends. Salubrity thus becomes a question of plan; and if close and stuffy rooms are generallv avoidable by ordinary ventilation from the open air, and by cleanliness within (especially as regards upholstery), stuffy passages and staircases may no less be avoided by a careful consideration on paper of the facilities for producing air-currents (not necessarily draughts) by means of windows, or, where necesnecesary, ventilated sky-lights. Damp, again, must be provided against, and the ascent of ground-air. In the case of sunk basements, nature's advice to us manifestly is to avoid altogether having habitable rooms underground; but where this cannot be done let particular care be taken to provide for atmospheric circulation under wood floors and through closed places; for the unwholesome air confined in the ground will force its way up into the warm house if it can - even through stone paving or a concrete covering. It is a good thing, also, to form emergency flues in the walls, to be turned to account if necessary.
It is no less injudicious to build our dwellings anywhere than to design them anyhow. In the open country, whether it be a stately mansion or a humble cottage, or, more usually, a comfortable family home, the situation of the house is most important. Where freedom of choice is unrestricted, let first the front containing the entrance, secondly that containing the garden windows, and thirdly the offices, be so planned separately as leading features, that never on any account can they be confused together. On the contrary, so dispose them that each facade of the house shall serve effectually by itself its own proper purpose - the entrance-front that of convenient ingress and egress, the garden-front that of bright and cheerful family privacy, and the offices-front that of the special operative department to which it pertains. For instance, it is quite inadmissible for the carriage-drive to pass through or along the lawn; or for the tradesmen's carts to use the principal approach; or for the kitchen-entrance to be in sight of the family rooms; or for the lawn or garden to be overlooked by the servants. Even in very modest dwellings something like a recognition of these elementary rules may be observed. To a considerable extent also in towns the same principles may be applied. Fig. 1 shows an example of typical treatment for a suburban house of good size.
It is astonishing that so few people consider the question of aspect. That of prospect or agreeable outlook is not generally neglected; but the elementary fact that aspect, or the influence of the weather and sunshine upon the house within, is of paramount importance, seems to be almost unknown. The aspect-compass here introduced (Fig. 2) may be usefully studied. All the year round and everywhere in our hemisphere the sun is south at noon, and sunrise and sunset always at about equal distances therefrom eastward and westward; the sunshine lasting from about 6 a.m. till 6 p.m. (12 hours) at the March and September quarter-days or equinoxes; from about 8 a.m. till 4 p.m. (8 hours) at Midwinter or Christmas, the shortest day; and from about 4 a.m. till 8 p.m. (16 hours) at Midsummer, the longest day. In our country, northward aspects are cold, and southward warm: the north-eastward catches cold winds, and the north-westward and south-westward boisterous winds; the south-westward is wet, and the south-eastward dry and mild. Sultry weather tells most oppressively upon a room which catches the afternoon sunshine by facing south-westward or westward, and the westward sunshine coming into a room is also at a disagreeably low level; the position of the sun being of course in all cases north east at 3 a.m., east at 6, south-east at 9, south at 12 noon, south-west at 3 p.m., west at 6, north-west at 9, and north at 12 midnight. It follows, therefore, that for coolness and shade generally, windows should look more or less northward; for the morning sunshine, eastward; for mid-day sunshine, southward; for evening sunshine (or the sunset-prospect), westward; for morning coolness, westward; and for evening coolness, eastward; and the best compromise to suit most purposes is the south-eastward. We must remember. too., that sunshine in itself is an important health-agent, and the house may be so arranged that the principal rooms shall be well "sunned" in the early part of the day, and left to cool afterwards in such a way as shall be convenient and comfortable to the inmates. For instance, to be obliged to keep the window-blinds of certain rooms drawn down almost all day long, or to have other rooms insufferably stuffy in the afternoon although the sunshine is off the window.-, is obviously an unfortunate state of things.